Campus transformation already evident

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 17, 2000

What a transformation is underway on the Whitworth Collegecampus — or, I guess I should say — the campus of the MississippiSchool of the Arts.

Before Friday, the last time I toured the campus was in October1999. I wanted to see how the buildings looked before the statebegan phase one of the total $11.4 million renovation project.

What I saw in October was all the dust, decay, debris anddesiccation that years of neglect had left on the once-thrivingwomen’s college.

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The three main buildings — Johnson Institute, Cooper Hall andEnoch Hall — were dying a slow death at the hands of vandals andthe weather.

Dr. Vicki Bodenhamer, executive director of the school of arts,was kind enough to brave the heat to take News Editor Matt Colemanand me on a tour of the buildings Friday.

The campus has certainly come a long way in the past ninemonths, and especially in the recent weeks since the pre-renovationwork began. And, of course, it still has a long way to go, but thechange is already tremendous.

If you’ve driven by the campus lately, you’ve notice that thewindows and doors have been removed from the buildings. They willbe repaired or replaced as necessary to shore up the exteriors toprevent further damage to the interiors.

The usable windows — and there are a lot of them — have beennumbered to identify their original locations and neatly stacked toawait future work. Any original materials that can be used in therenovation will be. That’s why a number of workers weremeticulously chipping old mortar from the bricks of the kitchenarea at Enoch Hall. Those bricks will later find new life on thecampus.

The first priority of the current work is the Johnson Institute,which was built in the 19th century and is the oldest building onthe campus. While structurally solid, it’s interior is in terribleshape. This building will house the the school’s first classrooms,Dr. Bodenhamer said.

Phase one of the renovation, which is a $1.6 million project, isofficially scheduled to begin Monday. At a preconstructionconference here this week, it was pointed out that the entire stateis taking note of progress being made on the future home of theschool of arts.

When phase one is completed, we will be given a glimpse of howWhitworth College looked in its heyday. It will be like steppinginto the past.

The past and the future will meld together with phase two of therenovation, or work on the buildings’ interiors. The first studentsand faculty should be in place in the fall of 2002.

It will be here before we know it. What a great time to be inBrookhaven and Lincoln County.

Write to Nanette Laster at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39602, send faxes to 833-6714, or e-mail to’d love to hear from you.